More of the same? Migrant agricultural workers’ health, safety, and legal rights in the COVID-19 context


  • C. Susana Caxaj University of Western Ontario
  • Amy Cohen Okanagan College
  • Carlos Colindres



Migrant Agricultural Workers, Health and Health Care, Legal Rights, Service Navigation, Social Support, Barriers, Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP), British Columbia (BC), Canada


In this paper, we report on research findings from a cross-sectional survey with 143 primarily Mexican migrant agricultural worker respondents in British Columbia (BC), Canada. Participants reported high rates of experiences of threats and violence by employers, limited faith in the follow-through of both Canadian and country-of-origin authorities when reporting concerns, and a unanimous lack of knowledge in how to file a claim of a legal matter (e.g., housing, human rights violation). Most parti­c­ipants also reported that they believed they would receive poorer health care in relation to their Cana­dian counterparts and that their privacy would not be protected. While certain indicators, such as knowledge of resources for transportation, transla­tion, and legal advocacy were higher than previous research would suggest, most participants did not feel confident that more serious issues would be addressed if they sought help.

Our results suggest migrant workers in BC report similar, or even higher, rates of experiences and expectations of poor social support, legal pro­tection, and health care in comparison to prior research in this region and elsewhere. While further research would be required to confirm this hypoth­esis, the impact of COVID-19 on this population is undeniable. Our findings highlight the need for greater regional and provincial commitments to fund targeted services for migrant agricultural workers that address the unique barriers they face. Additionally, greater attention and funding must be dedicated to supporting this population to navigate and access services that already exist. Together, dedicated initiatives could make a major difference for this workforce. Federal investments in support services of this nature would ensure the sustainabil­ity of such efforts. In addition, reforms to tempo­rary migrant agricultural programs, such as open work permits and immediate access to permanent residence, would better afford workers opportuni­ties to access the rights and protections that are currently out of reach for many.


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Author Biographies

C. Susana Caxaj, University of Western Ontario

Assistant Professor, Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing Fellow in Health Equity, Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing

Amy Cohen, Okanagan College

Professor, Department of Anthropology

Carlos Colindres

Emergency and Public Health Consultant



How to Cite

Caxaj, C., Cohen, A., & Colindres, C. (2022). More of the same? Migrant agricultural workers’ health, safety, and legal rights in the COVID-19 context. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 11(3), 139–156.